Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is Heartbleed?



Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about Heartbleed and the potential dangers it poses to anyone with an online presence.

There are many questions that have been posed to us such as;

“Will I need to update my antivirus?”
“Should I log in to my online banking?”
“When is it safe to venture back online?”

In this blog we will be debunking the myths and supplying you with what you need to know to stay safe and secure from Heartbleed.

Heartbleed, a brief story

To understand Heartbleed, we need to take a look at the software it affects. Heartbleed affects a piece of software known as OpenSSL. OpenSSL is security based software that is used on many popular servers such as Google. With OpenSSL, websites are able encrypt information sent to and from their visitors. So when you login to a site and provide your username and password, this information is encrypted using OpenSSL and sent to the server so that other users can’t snoop on your personal data.

OpenSSL is open source, which means that exceptionally talented individual software engineers volunteer to help the internet community by developing and improving upon it. When version 1.0.1 of OpenSSL was released in April 19th of 2012, a bug was introduced (a mistake made by a software engineer that has un-desired results). This bug came to be known as Heartbleed.

How Heartbleed affects the server?

When you access to a website, the website sends a response back to you to let you know that it is active and listening for requests. This is known as a heartbeat. The server also sets aside a block of memory for you to use during your time on the website. When you send a request from your computer, the heartbeat from the server will only send back the amount required for your request. So when you click "login", the server will send back only the data necessary to complete the login, storing any necessary information into your block of memory.

However, with servers affected by Heartbleed, hackers can request more than the data they sent, meaning they can retrieve more data back then what is in their own block of memory. This gives them the potential to obtain other peoples’ data.

What might be in this data? It could be anything from login credentials, cookies and other data, depending on the server affected and how it is set up.

So what should you do to keep safe?

Well, it turns out that the number of servers actually affected by Heartbleed is lower than first thought. This is because Heartbleed only affects servers with OpenSSL 1.0.1 – any older versions do not have the “Heartbeat” feature and the newer version – 1.0.1g – has had the bug fixed.

So should you worry? We think you should be more wary of your data, but don’t panic. You should change your passwords for the services that have been affected by Heartbleed. Services such as Google and Yahoo have emailed their users and informed them that they were affected by this bug. You should look out for other incoming emails from services that confirm if they have been affected and change your passwords for them too. There are services that allow you to manage all of your passwords in one place, such as LastPass or 1Password if (like me) you have trouble remembering all those passwords.

Have hackers been exploiting this?

There’s nothing to suggest that hackers knew of and have been actively using this bug, but that is not to say that they haven’t. The above suggestions are a precaution, now that Heartbleed is known more people will attempt to exploit servers that haven’t been updated yet.

What devices does this affect?

This can affect any device, your mobile phone, tablets, anything. The problem isn’t your device, but the server you are connecting to.

What about Rocktime?

The vast majority of our servers are Windows Servers, which use different encryption software, so these aren’t affected. Our Linux server has been updated with the latest OpenSSL which removes the Heartbleed bug.

If you would like to learn more about this subject or about any other technical challenges you are facing, feel free to contact our Digital Consultants.

Author: Jay Martin-Smith

Monday, April 07, 2014

Domain Authority Page Authority Linking and Google Ranking Factors in 2014


Open Site Exploer tool from Moz assists in defining competitive linking
Learn about a site's domain authority, top pages etc with Open Site Explorer

  • Tools to measure Domain Authority and Page Authority
Some of our clients have shown an interest in knowing what tools are available to measure the domain authority and page ranking for their business. We prefer to refer to this as Authority rather than Ranking.


We would be happy for businesses to trust the data shown in the Moz Open Site Explorer Tool to measure domain and page authority.


The Chrome extension PageRank Status can also be used for quick updates; it sits in the bookmark toolbar and takes seconds to load a number of very useful details and metrics about a website, to get a quick understanding of a business’s position.

One thing to consider when using Toolbar metric scores, is that they are designed to be used as an 'indicator' rather than a reliable score.

  • Measuring Domain Authority and Page Authority linking metrics
Domain Authority works on a algorithm which scores a website out of 100 (a higher score is better).
Page Authority is a calculated metric for how well a given webpage is likely to rank in Google.com's search results.

Domain Authority measures the strength of entire domains or subdomains, whereas Page Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of a single page.

Page Authority is difficult to influence directly. It is made up of an aggregate of metrics that each have an impact on this score. This was done intentionally; this metric is meant to approximate how competitive a given site is in Google.com. Since Google takes a lot of factors into account, a metric that tries to calculate it must incorporate a lot of factors, as well.

  • How to interpret the findings
It is recommended by industry experts that Domain Authority is viewed as a competitive metric against other sites, as opposed to a historic measure of your internal SEO efforts.

It's best to use Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) as comparative metrics when doing research in the search results and determining which sites / pages may have more powerful / important link profiles than another.

  • Best Practice Linking
This image below, shared in Smashing Magazine 2007 is often used to explain PageRank, though much has changed since then in terms of linking best practice, one such example is evident in the name 'link earning'; the value of links has evolved far beyond ranking factors. As an example, Businesses need to be aware that Google actively penalise for paying for blogger reviews on a blogger review network for instance. 'Natural' and 'not paid' is the only acceptable link in 2014 and importantly, generating referral traffic that drives 'real value' and 'builds long-term authority' for a website.


PageRank is used as an indicator of ranking strength
PageRank has gone through many changes since 2007

  • Google Ranking Factors
Google has over 200 Ranking Factors. These factors are updated on a fairly regular basis; sometimes as many 500 algorithmic updates in a year. Last major update 6 December 2013. The chaps at Backlinko have compiled a complete list and below is a selection of some relevant best practice factors that most businesses are either doing or planning to do through their search marketing activities with Rocktime.

This list has some general priority to the order but Google does not stipulate ‘exact’ priority when it comes to social signals or being an authority on a topic etc. instead Google talks in terms of strong, medium and weak signals to assist with their ranking algorithms and what elements of a website to optimise.


  • Some Google Ranking Factors Listed
Keyword As First Word in Domain: a domain that starts with a target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain

Keyword in Subdomain Name: a keyword appearing in the subdomain boosts rank

Keyword in Title Tag / Page Title: The title tag is a webpage’s second most important piece of content (besides the content of the page) and therefore sends a strong on-page SEO signal.

Page Title / Title Tag Starts with Keyword: title tags that starts with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag

Keyword Appears in H1 Tag: H1 tags are a “second title tag” that sends another relevancy signal to Google

Use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: having these two programs installed on your site can improve your page’s indexing.

Breadcrumb Navigation: This is a style of user-friendly site-architecture that helps users (and search engines) know where they are on a site:

Page Loading Speed via HTML: Both Google and Bing use page loading speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairy accurately based on a page’s code and file size.

Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.

Rel=Canonical: When used properly, use of this tag may prevent Google from considering pages duplicate content.

Image Optimisation: Images on-page send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption.

Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site. The Google Rater Guidelines Document uses broken links as one was to assess a homepage’s quality.

Keyword in URL: Another important relevancy signal.

HTML errors/WC3 validation: Lots of HTML errors or sloppy coding may be a sign of a poor quality site. WC3 validation is a moderate signal.

Site Architecture: A well put-together site architecture (especially a silo structure) helps Google thematically organise your content.

Presence of Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines index your pages easier and more thoroughly, improving visibility.

Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.

Site Usability: A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt ranking by reducing time on site, pages viewed and bounce rate.

Keyword is Most Frequently Used Phrase in Document: Having a keyword appear more than any other likely acts as a relevancy signal.

Content Length:  Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferred to shorter superficial articles.

Recency of Content Updates: Google Caffeine update favours recently updated content, especially for time-sensitive searches.

Magnitude of Content Updates: The significance of edits and changes is also a freshness factor. Adding or removing entire sections is a more significant update than switching around the order of a few words.

Historical Updates Page Updates: How often has the page been updated over time? Daily, weekly, every 5-years? Frequency of page updates also play a role in freshness.

Keyword Word Order: An exact match of a searcher’s keyword in a page’s content will generally rank better than the same keyword phrase in a different order.

Outbound Link Quality: linking out to relevant authority sites helps send trust signals to Google.

Helpful Supplementary Content: helpful supplementary content is an indicator of a page’s quality – how to calculate, how to use, top tips.

Multimedia: Images, videos and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal.

Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page: The number of internal links to a page indicates its importance relative to other pages on the site.

Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on domain have a stronger effect.

Internal Link Anchor Text: Internal link anchor text is another relevancy signal, although probably weighed differently than backlink anchor text.

Page Category: The category the page appears on is a relevancy signal. A page that’s part of a closely related category should get a relevancy boost compared to a page that’s filed under an unrelated or less related category.

Bullets and Numbered Lists: Bullets and numbered lists help break up your content for readers, making them more user friendly. Google likely agrees and may prefer content with bullets and numbers.

User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s on review sites likely play an important role in the algorithm.

Linking Root Domains: The number of referring domains, domain authority, and aged domains is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm,

Social Shares of Referring Page: The amount of page-level social shares may influence the link’s value.

Diversity of Link Types: links from diverse sources is a sign of a natural link profile.

Bounce Rate: a way for Google to use the users as quality testers

Direct Traffic: It’s confirmed that Google uses data from Google Chrome to determine whether or not people visit a site (and how often). Sites with lots of direct traffic are likely higher quality than sites that get very little direct traffic.

Repeat Traffic: They may also look at whether or not users go back to a page or site after visiting. Sites with repeat visitors may get a Google ranking boost.

Number of Comments: Pages with lots of comments may be a signal of user-interaction and quality.

Dwell Time: Google pays very close attention to “dwell time”: how long people spend on your page when coming from a Google search. This is also sometimes referred to as “long clicks vs short clicks”. If people spend a lot of time on your site, that may be used as a quality signal.

Google+ Circles: Google shows higher results for authors and sites that you’ve added to your Google Plus Circles

Local Searches: Google often places Google+ Local results above the “normal” organic SERPs.

Number of Tweets: Like links, the tweets a page has may influence its rank in Google.

Authority of Twitter Users Accounts: It’s likely that Tweets coming from aged, authority Twitter profiles with a ton of followers have more of an effect than tweets from new, low-influence accounts.

Facebook Shares: Facebook shares — because they’re more similar to a backlink — may have a stronger influence than Facebook likes.

Authority of Facebook User Accounts: As with Twitter, Facebook shares and likes coming from popular Facebook pages may pass more weight.

NB
Number of Google+1′s: Google+ has “no direct effect” on rankings
Google would weigh +1′s coming from authoritative accounts more than from accounts without many followers.

Verified Google+ Authorship: In February 2013, Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously claimed:
Verified authorship may already be a trust signal.

Site Level Social Signals: Site-wide social signals may increase a site’s overall authority, which will increase search visibility for all of its pages.

Employees Listed at Linkedin: having Linkedin profiles that say they work for your company is a brand signal.

Mobile Optimised: Google’s official stance on mobile is to create a responsive site. It’s likely that responsive sites get an edge in searches from a mobile device.

YouTube: There’s no doubt that YouTube videos are given preferential treatment in the search engine results page (SERPs); probably because Google owns it.



Well, there is always plenty to get on with, within an integrated digital strategy or digital transformation strategy! As long as the content is written for the viewer and not to please Google, then a business is on the right track at least.

If you want to share your thoughts on this blog, or gain other insights into making your site ready in this age of the customer, you are always welcome to give our Digital Strategists a call on 01202 678777. It is very satisfying to see the results and return on investment gained together!


Author: Fiona Anderson



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top Ten Tips for Facebook Pages

Top Ten Tips for setting up a Facebook Company Page
Facebook has 1.19 billion monthly active users

We are regularly asked for tips for optimising a Facebook Company page. Here are just a few to get you started...but mostly it is all about engagement strategies.

Top Ten Tips for setting up a Facebook Company Page

1. Know who you want to connect with, what and why you are looking to connect on Facebook.  Define your goals. Develop a strategy to listen and search


2. Choose a suitable cover image. First impressions count. Feature Call to Actions just below the cover image. Image dimensions 851px wide x 315px tall.


3. Highlight posts and publish more than once a day. Remember visual content rules on Facebook. Photo posts get 39% more interaction. Reply to comments.


4. Give focus to building your page and to optimise for Facebook Graph Search, make sure your basics are complete (Category, web address, about section, local place page, address). Tag and geo-locate content.


5. It’s not about the number of likes. The metric that matters is the number of people engaging with your Facebook page. Manage page permissions - can people like, comment, share. The average number of minutes users spend on Facebook mobile is 914 minutes.


6. Share your milestones (key dates) and post effective engaging updates, like question, quotes, competitions. Engagement rates are high on Thursday and Friday and highest on the weekend. Posts at 1pm get the most shares and posts at 3pm gets the most clicks. 


7. Use the tools within Facebook, Apps, Highlighting posts, Schedule Posts in the activity log, Personalisation for Custom audiences, Search, watch other pages, get ratings and recommendations.


8. Don’t forget about the opportunities offered by Facebook Adverts and Promoted Posts.


9. People discover more content from the people they know and pages they like. Consider which posts get shared. Add quality articles over memes. Track, measure and tweak.


10. Cross Promote other social channels from your Facebook Company Page within campaigns.

Facebook has 1.19 billion monthly active users and it is always changing; as you will notice from this Facebook engagement blog we wrote back in 2010

Feel free to share your Facebook for Business tips in the comments section below.


Author: Fiona Anderson

Monday, January 27, 2014

Geek Video of the Month




This month's Geek Video of the Month is a Pebble Smartwatch Review, highlighting key features and summing up what’s great about this wearable technology.

There has been a lot of talk in the tech media about how the Pebble Smartwatch is setting a standard for other Smartwatches in the industry to keep the wearer connected. The appearance is sleek and minimal, lightweight, connects with both iOS and Android smartphones in delivering SMS, emails,  notifications, alerts and reminders. It has a 5-7 day battery life, is waterproof up to 5m, has a screen that is readable in full daylight, works with some apps, music control, alarm clock and will even automatically track your runs and other activities without you having to press a button.


This additional article gives some further insights into the engineering challenges that were overcome during the creative process in developing the Smartwatch. Will you be wearing one? 

Author: Fiona Anderson

Friday, January 03, 2014

Image Optimisation: Importance of Alt Text


Image optimisation for local strategies on the visual web
Importance of image optimisation in local strategy
Alt text is 'alternative text' - the text inside the alt tags  alt=""  "alt text".
Also called The Alt Attribute.
The value of the alt attribute is an author-defined text


The alt text serves as an alternative text on a webpage to describe an image content; which cannot be easily interpreted by search engines / Google.

The Visual Web in Local Search Results

The alt text is good for the user journey and therefore good for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In this increasing time of the 'visual web', where images outrank words for engagement, where 5% of all search is image related, 10% of all searches are via Google Image search, where images show up on maps in local searches, on Panoramio and Google Earth, on local search 'carousel' for locations frequently mentioned on the web like museums etc, where photo posts on Facebook get 39% more interaction and one of the most popular activities on G+ is the upload and sharing of images and tweets with images have a better chance of being retweeted, where 16 billion photos have been shared on Instagram, where Pinterest image pins deliver on average two site visits and six pageviews...then it makes sense to add some helpful details to images. Image alt text in turn helps to make the web content meet W3C web standards for accessibility - to ensure web access is available to people whether or not they have impairments of one sort or another.

Image Optimisation
If you imagine a website visitor is reading a web page on a screen reader; the visitor will learn what is on the page from a number of triggers, such as the keyword rich URL, the page title / title tag and the header title / header tags. These tags are used to optimise a web page and therefore give an indication to the visitor and the search engines about what the page content will contain; the body text holds most of the page content detail.

An image is a more attractive, emotional and memorable way of telling the story within the page and body text. However, the search engines need a written description about the image content and the image location to outline what role, or relevance the image has on the page. Ideally, the alt text would be a short, seamless piece of text that is part of the body text. We do not actually have to describe in detail what is in the picture. It is more important to reference what is in the image, or to describe the scene within the picture, as if it is part of the sentence before and part of the sentence after the image. This way, the image is explained 'in context' to the rest of the copy.

Logo Optimisation
If the image has no contextual purpose on the page, like a logo in the header for instance, then it is acceptable to leave the alt text blank, as the user journey is not enhanced by knowing the logo is there and the image name would have already identified it as a logo. In some circumstances, logo optimisation can be used if the logo design also incorporates a strap line, or a geographical location, rather than just a graphic logo design.

Image Ranking Factors
An optimised image at the top of the page naturally gives the search engines another trigger to understand what is on the page. Being above the fold gives the image some SEO prominence and makes the page visually appealing. Google determines that these tags are of benefit for the end user, in making their journey around the website as easy as possible, therefore Google will rank a website based on the optimised content.

As with all the optimisation tags used on a web page, the alt text, (sometimes incorrectly call alt tags) allows for some of the competitive topic keywords to be used, these can also be geo-located if it is relevant to the context of the page. It is imperative that no keyword stuffing is used; this is considered spamming and obviously does nothing for the user's journey.

Alt Text and Captions
As a guideline, the recommended maximum length of alt text is 125 characters. It is recommended not to embed important text in images because as mentioned, the search engines need to know what is in the image. Captions and title can be used to help describe the image but these do not always show on a mobile, whereas the alt text will work in all situations.

Google Search by Image
We used to say that Google was blind when it came to images but that has all changed. The Google  'search by image' features a camera in the image search box which allows users to do a reverse image search and discover all sorts of content that's related to a specific image..

Using the local image optimisation symbol above, we dragged the Jpeg in to the Google image search box. Google tries to interpret the image and return visually similar images.

Google interprets the image content and returns visually similar images
Drag an image into an image search and Google interprets the image content

Some images are more easily interpreted than others and Google will return webpages with a similar image; it may be the same image but the size differs on different webpages, such as the Keytek Locksmith Engineer image below.

Google image search interprets image content
Google improves image search and interprets image content to match to web pages with similar images

Impressively, Google Image search is able to match some image content quite accurately. The Southern Contracts News article image example below was interpreted as a UK Map.

Google Image Search matched the UK map image
Google can interpret and match some images quite well

Google is increasingly improving how it clusters multiple images, how it identifies duplicate images, determines which image makes the most sense. Image ranking is performed on many signals but giving the search engines as much detail as possible about the image is certainly worthwhile; each image is an important link back to the website hosting that image.

Image Optimisation Developments
The value associated with image optimisation and geo-locating images is always changing. In 2012 we were trying to get our clients to seriously think about image optimisation and how to use tools like Picasa to manage their images; now it seems very natural for businesses to embrace image optimisation.

Give us a call if you want to discuss our approach to image optimisation, prioritising the best image for image search via responsive design, image-specific tags for image sitemaps in webmaster tools, image scaling for apps, adaptive images, cross-browser, using CSS, appropriate image file sizes for your requesting devices, schema.org image markup, rich snippets, geo-targeting, image search reporting in analytics, accurate image resolution for smartphones or any other consideration you may have for using images to increase web traffic.

Author: Fiona Anderson

Friday, December 20, 2013

Digital Transformation 2014



Words that best describe important business developments at Rocktime
Words that best describe important business developments at Rocktime

The Rocktime Team and Rocktime Clients have compiled an informed group of words that best describe our perceptions about important business developments currently affecting us in 2013 and that will continue to have a direct impact on us going optimistically into 2014.


  • Innovation
  • Responsive design
  • Social ROI
  • Digital Transformation
  • Conversions
  • Social Workplace
  • Mobile
We have some really great clients and we appreciate the challenges to remain innovative.

You know where we are if you want to chat about your marketing and development plans; we are all 'hands on' and 'consultants', so you are in good hands, whoever you work with at Rocktime!

Here's to plenty more great integrated digital strategies in 2014!

Author: Fiona Anderson

Friday, November 29, 2013

Team Event: Aim Direct Target - Clay Pigeon Shooting


Image credit rjwhetton.co.uk
Image credit rjwhetton.co.uk

Clay pigeon shooting, also known as clay target shooting, and formally known as Inanimate Bird Shooting, is the art of shooting a firearm at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets...well that is the definition, the reality was less of an art and more of an attempt..
We all managed to hit the target, largely thanks to the impressive and cheeky training skills of Ralph at Challenge Leisure.

Robert Whetton Photographer is the RocktimeSocial Guest Blogger this month and joined us on our Team Event to capture our endeavours...we are certainly in no position to give Rob any tips on shooting; guns or cameras.
Check out his event photos and blog and on the Robert Whetton Photographer Facebook Page.

rjwhetton guest blog and images form the Rocktime team clay shoot
rjwhetton guest blog and images form the Rocktime team clay shoot


The weather was fresh and clear, the team all learnt a lot and had a great laugh; mostly at each other in a lighthearted banter because Ralph was such a funny, ex-army tell-em-straight kind of guy, which the team photos also clearly show!


rjwhetton blog images
rjwhetton blog images

Well done to Paul, Krishna and Guy for being our champion clay shooting team. Paul was not only team winner, solo winner but also our photographer in residence! Busy man!


winner prize and medal went to Paul
winner prize and medal went to Paul


Would we go again...very likely, especially, as we have already been challenged by another digital agency.

It has been a good year for Rocktime social activities:Bowling, Paint Balling, Go Ape Tree top Adventure, RIB speed boat ride and the ever popular pint at the pub with a game of pool.

Author: Fiona Anderson